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LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman on social networking, Part II

As promised, yesterday I posted some videos of Reid Hoffman talking about what he thinks about some netiquette issues, the future of social networking and how he handles the volume of his emails (although I must admit, he didn't respond to the one I sent him, so maybe he's not following his own advice!).

Here's some other things he said that I wrote about in today's newspaper column:

I didn't expect to walk into an interview with LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman and have him hand me his actual business card -- after all, Hoffman helped start the social networking site that lets working professionals connect virtually.

For the record, he had business cards because he was at a conference in Miami Beach called Endeavor Entrepreneurs, which brought together people from developing countries.

Usually in this space, Bridget and I provide tips for people on how to deal with their coworkers online. But since we had an expert in town, we thought it should be our turn to ask for advice.

Not surprisingly, Hoffman thinks working professionals who haven't yet should ''dive right in'' to social media sites -- not just LinkedIn, but Facebook, Twitter and the like.

''I think the reason it's critical is because if you look at it, every individual now is essentially their small business, and a little bit of an entrepreneur themselves,'' said Hoffman, who founded LinkedIn after running business development for PayPal.

The Silicon Valley veteran has helped finance sites like Facebook, Flickr and Technorati, and sits on the boards of Six Apart, Mozilla and most recently, Zynga, the online social gaming company.

With that in mind, I sat down to pick Hoffman's brain. In keeping with the spirit of our column, we spoke about his netiquette peeves, but also about what to do on LinkedIn at different life stages, and his thoughts about Web 3.0.

Q: Do you have something that people do online that drives you crazy?

A: I would say the primary thing, from a LinkedIn standpoint, is communicate to people you know. Don't send invitations to people you don't know. When I get them, I ignore them or sometimes hit ''I don't know them'' because this is meant to be a vehicle for setting up relationships with people you know.

If are thoughtful in how they write the invitation, I reply to let them know how the system should work, which is that I connect with people I know and have some basis of trust with.

Whenever you're writing to someone you don't know, make sure you understand why they should be interested. It's all interaction and an exchange, so be clear about what's valuable for them in interacting with you.

Q: Would you give different advice to a 20-year-old vs. a 40-year-old on what to do on LinkedIn?

A: When you're 20, frequently people think, ''I don't know what my professional network is.'' But you do. You have your family, friends who have recently graduated who are in the workforce, professors, people you've met in summer internships -- that's what your professional network looks like. When you're 40, it's not just that but colleagues and former colleagues, people you've met at conferences that you've bonded with.

Q: Where do you see the future, in terms of Web 3.0; what's the next step?

A: Silicon Valley's always mad after the future, the phrase Web 3.0 has been kicked around a lot. I don't know that it has coherent meaning -- people have used it to mean video, software platforms and building applications, to mean mobile. I actually think we're still in the midst of Web 2.0.

I have a specific definition: when millions of people participate with their real identities and their real network. LinkedIn is one, Facebook is one, blogging can be another. How do you build these really powerful applications that change how are you live in this world, here? That's one of the really interesting problems and opportunities. I think there are things happening in Web 2.0 that haven't even gotten attention today. I think the game is just beginning.

I was surprised at the firm stance he took about LinkedIn being about how people should really know each other -- and emboldened by the fact that he actually uses the "I don't know this person" button when a stranger tries to connect with me, because I've been pretty chicken to use it. But I guess there's a reason why that button is there -- because Reid  was probably behind creating it! Does anyone else out there use this button frequently, or do you just ignore them by archiving them?


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